The Big Holiday Shake Out, Pt. 4
Updated: Oct 12
Closets are the next part of my yearly shake out. In reality, I finish this process long before March, but it is taking me some time to share it, which is why a Spring blog post has HOLIDAY in the title! Better late than never. Besides, I was really busy cleaning out my closets so I simply didn't have time to write about it. Whatever you believe, it is late, but still pertinent if you strive for more functional and tidy closets as you start the new year.
My in-laws live in a spacious, suburban home with more closets and storage space than I have ever had in all of my previous domiciles ever. A kitchen pantry, plus a cedar closet plus a general coat closet. Linen closets on both floors. Walk in master closets, broom closets and more. The house is impeccably clean and tidy without fail. But don't open a closet! Actually, some you can't open due to the abundance of stuff. It is as if the closet is not really part of the house, not part of the space that needs to be included in any calculation. The closets are stuffed, unorganized, and left for - who knows. I actually have no idea why people with closets disrespect them so. They are a luxury to have and use. After a holiday season, or a year of neglect, the closets need direct and sustained attention. Once cleared and ready for reveal, our closets become not just a source of pride, but a legitimate support for running an organized home overall. Try these closet tips and see what I mean.
1. Stop using the closet as the catch-all. Stop making your closet a storage space for everything that is left-behind or only partially wanted. If you truly have too much space, like my in-laws, and you care not what your closets do for you, then store away, shut the doors and lock the key. But if you are like myself and closet space is always at a premium, then you really don't have a choice but to keep unnecessary things out of the closet. Once we start carelessly tossing things into closets, we stop caring about those individual items. Those items clutter the space and we begin to stop caring about the closet as a whole. Anything in there that MIGHT have been worthwhile and useful is buried, destined to live a life of obscurity. How do we stop the catch-all closet habit? See step 2.
2. Decide the main function. Closets have specific purposes throughout out home. We need to remember that each time we go to use it. Linen closets are for linens, yes. I won't insult your intelligence. But a linen closet in the hallway might also serve to hold other items that are accessed regularly. Ours is linens but also medicine and first aid, gift bags, boxes with batteries, small household tools, and extra toiletries. Our hall closet is central to the whole house, accessed nearly every day. I need things at my fingertips that are not just linens. Linen closets in the bathroom might not be the best place for batteries (think moisture exposure) but a very suitable place for humidifiers. Decide the who, what, and how often for each closet. Who accesses it? What are they likely looking for in close proximity to this closet? How often do they need these items? It makes zero sense to store the heating pad downstairs in the front hall closet, far away from the person settling in for bed each night. Or to put extra toilet paper away from the bathrooms. Just stop and think about what would make life easier. And get other stuff out of there. Once you do this major shuffle once, it is easy to maintain, but you have to work pretty hard to get things in the right spot to begin with.
3. Store things in a way that makes sense. Once you are clear about what needs to be part of the particular closet, be mindful of how you store items within. Make sure you can see everything. Make sure smaller things are collected together and labeled so you can skip the fishing expedition each time you need them. Don't be afraid to put things up high and out of reach if you have little curious hands that open your closet. And don't stuff things in so tightly that when you remove something, or try to put something back, you have a ripple effect of destruction because its too hard to get it to fit again. And then you are much more likely to just toss it in disgust. Before you know it, you have your organized things buried under your most recently used, unfolded, unsorted things. That pile then fuels your decision to not bother with folding any longer. And a year later - well - that is why we need a shake out.
4. Leave the door open. If you allow the closet to be part of the room, you won't ever allow it to become just cluttered storage. It has to look acceptable if the doors are left open, or whenever you find yourself opening them to get something. Allow closets to be an extension of the room, using the shelves for books or other displays. Again, this is only if you have the flexibility. We don't, so our closets are 100% utilitarian. There is nothing just for visual enjoyment, though we do try to store things in a visually enjoyable way. The prettiest purses in front. The shoes in a row. The storage boxes matched. When we have closets that are full but not jammed, functional and even pretty, leaving the door open isn't a mistake. It welcomes you to enjoy the space more readily.
5. Get help. Closet organization is a billion dollar industry these days. Many of us are striving for those Instagram-worthy closets, clutter-free and color-coded. And there is no shortage of people and products willing to help you get it. If you really want cleaner closets but honestly feel ill-equipped to get it done independently, hire someone who can help. It doesn't come cheap, which is why I have always tried to do it myself. And if you really don't have the resources to hire someone, then at least spend some quality time finding inspiration on the web or in magazines. Post those and copy what they have done to the best of your ability. It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't have to be fancy. It doesn't have to be what others say it should be. But it has to be yours - something you identify with, use and enjoy.
6. Let it go. Let something go. Let anything go. Once we start opening up our closets and evaluating what is really in there, we don't need much time to see that we have too much stuff. We are holding on to way more than we could ever use. If you have room and it bothers you not, so be it. But we just can't handle the volume around here. The world will not stop if I pitch the frayed towels. And if I feel guilty about letting it go, then I do my best to re-purpose it before I let it go. I try really hard to embrace the feelings of freedom when I let something go, not any feelings of dread for giving it up. It served me well, and will serve me better because its absence leaves me with a space for something I need more - space to organize what I readily use each day. Don't allow your closets to be a symptom of poor decision-making, representing an inability to decide what we want, or hesitation to acknowledge limits. Be decisive and purposeful with closet storage and let go of what holds you back from feeling good each time you open the closet door.